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Coates v. Hogsten

October 24, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


Leroy W. Coates ("Coates"), an inmate currently confined at the Allenwood Federal Correctional Institution in White Deer, Pennsylvania, filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Coates challenges certain actions taken by the United States Parole Commission ("Commission") and the United States Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"). Specifically, Coates alleges that he should be released from custody because: (1) his ten year sentence expired in October 1990 and his continued incarceration violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution, (2) he was denied counsel at his dispositional and revocation hearings, and (3) he was not granted a revocation hearing within ninety days of his release into federal custody. For the reasons that follow, the petition will be dismissed.

I. Statement of Facts

On May 16, 1975, in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Coates received a ten-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to bank robbery. (Doc. 1 at 3.) Coates was paroled to the District of Columbia on June 6, 1980 and was to remain under parole supervision until April 12, 1985. (Doc. 2 at 2; Doc. 7 at 2.)

On January 11, 1982, Coates was sentenced to thirty-five years by the Prince George's County Circuit Court for assault with intent to murder and armed robbery. (Doc. 2 at 2; Doc. 7, Ex. 5.) The offenses that formed the basis of Coates' state conviction also constituted violations of his federal parole. (See Doc. 7, Ex. 3.) Accordingly, on March 1, 1982, the Commission issued a warrant charging Coates with violating several conditions of his supervision. (Doc. 7 at 2; Doc. 7, Exs. 3, 4, 5.) Because Coates was already in state custody, the Commission instructed the United States Marshals Service to place its warrant as a detainer while Coates served his state sentence. (Doc. 7 at 2; Doc. 7, Ex. 5.)

On September 26, 1983, the Commission conducted a dispositional review of its detainer. (Doc. 7, Ex. 6.) The Commission concluded that the detainer would stand and that a dispositional revocation hearing would be conducted "subsequent to January, 1984, or upon [Coates'] return to Federal Custody, whichever comes first." (Id.) On February 29, 1984, the Commission conducted the scheduled dispositional revocation hearing. (Doc. 7, Ex. 7.) The Commission noted that although Coates was seemingly cooperative, he "committed a very serious offense, in which a police officer was shot." (Id.) In fact, this was the second time that Coates had "participated in a crime where shots were fired at pursuing police." (Doc. 7, Ex. 8.) Accordingly, the Commission ordered that Coates' parole be revoked and that he receive no credit for time spent on parole. (Id.) The Commission further ordered that the unexpired portion of Coates' federal sentence "commence upon [his] release from state custody or upon federal reparole to [his] state sentence, whichever comes first." (Id.)

On November 4, 1994, a ten year reconsideration hearing was held while Coates was still in state custody. (Doc. 7, Ex. 9.) The Commission noted that Coates had not "utilized the 12 years that he has been in confinement to the best of his ability and overall the parole violation behavior was very serious." (Id.) Therefore, the Commission reaffirmed its prior recommendation that Coates serve the unexpired portion of his federal sentence upon his release from state custody. (Id.) The Commission, departing above Coates' guideline range, also scheduled a fifteen year reconsideration hearing for November 2009. (Id.)

On September 30, 2005, Coates was released from his state sentence, and the Commission's warrant was executed. (Doc. 7, Ex. 12.) A statutory interim hearing was conducted on May 3, 2006. (Doc. 7, Ex. 13.) The Commission recommended that Coates continue to serve until the expiration of his sentence on December 31, 2008. (Doc. 7, Exs. 13, 14.) Coates did not file an administrative appeal of the Commission's decision. Instead, Coates filed the instant petition on March 6, 2007. (Doc. 1.) The petition has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion

28 U.S.C. § 2241 provides district courts with authority to order the release of prisoners from unconstitutional conditions of confinement. See, e.g., Moscato v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 98 F.3d 757, 758-60 (3d Cir. 1996). Generally, federal prisoners are required to exhaust their administrative remedies prior to seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. See id. at 760; see also Callwood v. Enos, 230 F.3d 627, 634 (3d Cir. 2000) ("[W]e have consistently applied an exhaustion requirement to claims brought under § 2241.") Exhaustion is required for three reasons: (1) it facilitates judicial review by allowing the appropriate agency to develop a factual record and to apply its expertise; (2) it conserves judicial resources; and (3) it fosters administrative autonomy by providing agencies the opportunity to correct their errors. Garcia v. Gonzalez, Civ. No. 3:CV-07-0047, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8420, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 6, 2007) (citing Moscato, 98 F.3d at 761-62). Exhaustion of administrative remedies, however, is not required where exhaustion would not promote these goals.*fn1

In the instant case, respondent has not challenged Coates' exhaustion of his administrative remedies; therefore, the court will turn to the merits of Coates' petition. See Soto v. Sherman, No. C.A.05-316, 2006 WL 2583564, at *2-3 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 6, 2006). Coates seeks an order of release on the basis that he is being held "illegally and unlawfully" on an expired federal sentence. (Doc. 2 at 1.) Essentially, Coates alleges that the Commission made a number of errors when calculating his reparole date. These errors include the Commission's decisions to: (1) conduct a revocation hearing on February 29, 1984, which Coates contends "constructively executed" his parole violation warrant (Doc. 10 at 5-6); (2) upwardly depart from reparole guidelines (Doc. 2 at 4); (3) run Coates' federal sentence consecutively with his state sentence (Doc. 10 at 7); (4) deny Coates counsel at his dispositional and revocation hearings (Doc. 10 at 2); (5) fail to conduct a revocation hearing within ninety days of Coates' release into federal custody (Doc. 10 at 4); and (6) deny Coates statutory good time credit (Doc. 2 at 5).

A district court's review of a decision issued by the Commission is extremely deferential. See Furnari v. Warden, Allenwood Fed. Corr. Inst., 218 F.3d 250, 254 (3d Cir. 2000). The issue "is not whether the [Commission's decision] is supported by the preponderance of the evidence, or even by substantial evidence." Id. Rather, the dispositive question is whether "there is a rational basis in the record for the [Commission's] conclusions embodied in its statement of reasons." Id. (citation omitted). The Commission's explanation for its conclusions need not be comprehensive, addressing each factor and resolving each evidentiary conflict, but must provide a general overview of the materials considered and the factors deemed dispositive in the particular case. See Bd. of Pardons v. Allen, 482 U.S. 369 (1987). The court should focus its review on the process of decision, rather than the conclusion. So long as the Commission has followed appropriate and permissible criteria, and has not reached an "arbitrary and capricious" finding, the decision should not be disturbed. Funari, 218 F.3d at 254. With the foregoing framework in mind, the court will address Coates' arguments seriatim.

A. Execution of the Warrant

Coates' primary argument is that he has served his parole violator term because the revocation hearing on February 29, 1984 effectively executed his parole violation warrant. (Doc. 10 at 4.) Stated somewhat differently, Coates contends that the Commission is not permitted to conduct a revocation hearing prior to the execution of a parole violator warrant. (Doc. 10 at 3.) Coates does not cite, and the court is unaware of, any case that explicitly holds that a revocation hearing cannot precede execution of a parole violation warrant. Contra United States ex rel. Hahn v. Revis, 520 F.2d 632, 637 (7th Cir. 1975) ("We see no reason . . . why a [revocation] hearing cannot precede execution of the [parole violation] warrant."); Cook v. United States Attorney General, 488 F.2d 667, 672 n. 11 (5th Cir. 1974) ("While it would be within the [Parole] Board's discretion to grant a full . . . revocation hearing to a parolee serving an intervening sentence with a detainer lodged against him, the regulations do not impose such a duty on the board.") Instead, the court finds the actions taken by the Commission in the matter sub judice both reasonable and permissible under the Commission's regulations and statutory law. The Commission may issue a parole violation detainer warrant at any time prior to the expiration date of a petitioner's sentence. See Boswell v. J.J. Parker, 262 F. Supp. 559, 560-61 (M.D. Pa. 1967); Russie v. United States Dep't of Justice, 708 F.2d 1445, 1448 (9th Cir. 1983). The law permitted the Commission to hold the warrant in abeyance until Coates' sentence had expired, at which time it executed the detainer. See Boswell, 262 F. Supp. at 560-61 (finding that when parolee is arrested on another charge, execution of parole revocation warrant may be held in abeyance until intervening charge is disposed of and any intervening sentence is served); Heath v. United States Parole Comm'n, 788 F.2d 85, 91 (2d Cir. 1986); Russie, 708 F.2d at 1448 (finding that where valid parole violation ...

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